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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7–10—In this first novel for young people set outside of Discworld, Pratchett again shows his humor and humanity. Worlds are destroyed and cultures collide when a tsunami hits islands in a vast ocean much like the Pacific. Mau, a boy on his way back home from his initiation period and ready for the ritual that will make him a man, is the only one of his people, the Nation, to survive. Ermintrude, a girl from somewhere like Britain in a time like the 19th century, is on her way to meet her father, the governor of the Mothering Sunday islands. She is the sole survivor of her ship (or so she thinks), which is wrecked on Mau's island. She reinvents herself as Daphne, and uses her wits and practical sense to help the straggling refugees from nearby islands who start arriving. When raiders land on the island, they are led by a mutineer from the wrecked ship, and Mau must use all of his ingenuity to outsmart him. Then, just as readers are settling in to thinking that all will be well in the new world that Daphne and Mau are helping to build, Pratchett turns the story on its head. The main characters are engaging and interesting, and are the perfect medium for the author's sly humor. Daphne is a close literary cousin of Tiffany Aching in her common sense and keen intelligence wedded to courage. A rich and thought-provoking read.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics praised Nation as a hybrid, deeply philosophical book aimed at young adults, but one likely to appeal to adults as well, much like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. With echoes of William Defoe and William Golding, Nation takes the form of a “classic Robinsonade,” notes the Washington Post—that is, a book in which characters on a desert island recreate civilization. As his characters grapple with questions of leadership, humanity, and survival, Pratchett explores fundamental ideas about religion and culture. This might all sound rather heavy, but there is plenty of originality and humor—and cannibals, spirits, and secret treasures—to go around. In the end, Pratchett offers a vision of a deeply humane world. “In some part of the multiverse there is probably a civilisation based on the thinking of Terry Pratchett,” writes the Guardian, “and what a civilised civilisation that will be.”
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Top customer reviews
What sets this apart from other good reads is the sophisticated way the characters grapple with nationhood, empire, religion, culture, and personal responsibility. They are forced to consider such issues critically, raising questions about the kind of orthodoxies for which people go to war and conquer empires. Yet, like all Pratchett's books, it raises such serious issues while being at times laugh-out-loud funny.
And like all the best children's literature, Nation simultaneously entertains both child and adult readers. In my recent experience of reading it with a seven-year-old and a twelve-year-old, we were all engaged by the story despite our very different levels of understanding, experience, and sophistication.
Nation has lovingly drawn and lovable characters as well as villains who are all too real. There is plenty of adventure to keep the pages turning and the children asking for more.
The main characters—the boy Mau and the girl Daphne—are heroic in their way but fully human, on the cusp of adulthood and faced with the kinds of problems that adults struggle with. Everything resolves into a happy ending, but not AT ALL of the Disney happily-ever-after variety. Still, I teared up as I read the final pages.
Set on a slightly-alternate Earth, the plot may have sounded convoluted a few years ago--giant wave comes along and destroys everyone and everything in its path. But the 2004 tsunami lent a heart-breaking credibility to it. The characters could have easily been cookie-cutter one dimensional types beholden to the plot; instead, they are all complex, genuine people--some likeable, some not, but all entirely believable.
TP, as usual, handles big issues--religion, growing up, "destiny"--with a deft touch. He sees all sides, and gives them all a fair shake. I would happily recommend this book to readers of all ages, all beliefs, and all backgrounds. Everyone will recognize a bit of themselves here.